Monthly Archives: March 2014

Intentional nostalgia: Mission of Burma and Speed the Plough played The Bell House

Mission of Burma at The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY, Feb. 7, 2014 (Photos © 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Mission of Burma at The Bell House, Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 7, 2014: Roger Miller, Clint Conley and Peter Prescott. (Photos © 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Back in February — it seems such a very long time ago — I stopped by at The Bell House in Brooklyn to catch a double bill featuring two of my favorite bands.

Speed the Plough at The Bell House in Brookly, NY, on Feb. 7, 2014.

Speed the Plough at The Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 7, 2014: Ed Seifert, Toni Paruta Baumgartner, Mike Baumgartner and Cindi Merklee.

Mission of Burma and Speed the Plough both factored heavily in my experience at the late, lamented Maxwell’s in Hoboken, so it was a real joy to see them together at the Bell House, which was becoming Maxwell’s musical successor even before the lights went out in Hoboken. (And it’s no surprise, given that former Maxwell’s booker and co-owner Todd Abramson has been booking bands at the great Gowanus club for quite awhile now.)

The show was awesome, as expected. And the crowd — packed with more than a few familiar faces from Maxwell’s — was enthusiastic.

So step into my time machine and get a look at some shots from the show. If you were there, the pics will spark some good memories. If you didn’t make it, I apologize if my images make you envious.

Either way, enjoy them.

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Ecstatic Music Festival brings together 5 musicians in a unique collaboration

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It’s hard to believe that the 2014 edition of the Ecstatic Music Festival is nearly over. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been able to get to most of the shows in the festival, which kicked off Jan. 31 and ends this Saturday, March 29.

Two shows remain this year: Wednesday’s bill featuring So Percussion and Buke & Gase, and Saturday’s program with Man Forever and William Basinski. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are a reasonable $25, but if you attend both shows, you can get in for $20 apiece. Click here to buy tickets online, or visit the Merkin Concert Hall box office at 129 West 67th Street in Manhattan.

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Cynthia Hopkins tells it like it really is

Cynthia Hopkins in character as “the fat lady” for her latest show, “A Living Documentary.”

I’ve long wondered how edgy performance artist Cynthia Hopkins survives.

The answer, it turns out, is: just barely.

Her extremely personal theater work, often presented as slightly bizarre, dreamy (sometimes verging on nightmarish) faux autobiography, has won increasingly wide acceptance. Aside from being the darling of St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, she’s put on her shows at other leading venues such as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

She’s become a favorite of comedian John Hodgman, who featured her on his end-of-the-world “Ragnarok” show in 2012.

She’s had a Guggenheim fellowship and has won Bessie, Obie and other awards.

(Click through to the jump for videos and more about Cynthia Hopkins.)

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Ubu Sings Ubu: Cleveland cult band’s music torn up and stewed

I was intrigued when I got an email about a show at Joe’s Pub tonight (Tuesday, March 25): the Ubu Sings Ubu Band.

I’ve never been a fan of Pere Ubu, David Thomas’ Cleveland avant-garage band. There’s not a single Ubu track in my iTunes library or in my I’ll-import-them-to-iTunes eventually collection of CDs.

So why would I care about the debut of a band covering songs that I’ll barely recognize?

The band’s video of  “Life Stinks” offered a taste that left me wanting more.

But it’s the personnel list that really got to me: Tony Torn, Dan Safer — and Stew (of  The Negro Problem/”Passing Strange” fame) sitting in as a special guest.

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Black 47’s long goodbye comes to Yonkers

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What form of entertainment could be more appropriate in St. Patrick’s weekend than a Black 47 concert?

And the great thing is , if you love in the Lower Hudson Valley, you don’t even have to trek into New York City to see them (unless you simply must do it on Monday, St. Patrick’s Day proper, when they appear at B.B. King’s).

The lauded Irish-American rock band, which is calling it quits in November, is playing Sunday afternoon at Empire City Casino in Yonkers.

For mor info, check out my interview with Larry Kirwan, the lead singer and cofounder. It’s online now at LoHud.com and is scheduled to appear in Friday’s editions of The Journal News.

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Marah takes a trip into the past to find something fresh and new

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An album full of mysteries, discoveries and pure joy

Awhile back, my friends in Marah asked me to do an item on their new single advancing the release of their Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania album.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? is a labor of love, but sometimes the love of paying the bills takes so much time that there’s not much time for the labor of love. David Bielanko’s request for an item came at one of those times. The idea kept getting moved, of necessity, to the end of the list. Eventually, as happens with many to-do lists — at least mine — it fell off altogether.

So when the album was finally released on Feb. 25, I realized I had to get my hands on a copy and find a few minutes to make up for letting that opportunity slip away.

So I placed my order and waited.

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Stew brings ‘The New Stew Review’ to 54 Below (Video)

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There’s still time to grab tickets to see Stew, the Tony Award-winning creator of Broadway’s wildest ride, “Passing Strange,” in the cabaret setting of Manhattan’s 54 Below on Friday or Saturday night.

Stew’s work speaks for itself. He’s created a great deal of thoughtful, memorable, and provocative songs for theater, with “Passing Strange” and other shows, and for clubs as a solo performer and with his band, The Negro Problem.

He’s been a favorite of mine for 15 years. His “New Stew Review” promises a preview of upcoming shows, along with old favorites. If experience is any guide, he’ll offer plenty of surprises.

A trip to 54 Below, in the cellar of Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street, Manhattan, can be a bit pricey. But Stew is worth it. Tickets for his shows, which start at 8 p.m., are $40-55, plus a $25 per person minimum. But use the code PUBLIC54 to get a reasonable discount.

Tickets and more information are available here.

Check out the video of Stew and co-creator Heidi Rodewald after the jump.

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